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New Year's Greeting from the Edge of the Solar System


Another entry here for my ever-expanding file of amazing-things-that-happen-without-me-knowing.

A US probe known as New Horizons left earth back in 2006 and has been travelling ever since. At something like 50,000km/hr. It passed by Pluto in 2015 and gave us more info about it than we had ever had before: apparently Pluto has a thin, nitrogen-rich atmosphere, and there is evidence that ice has recently flown across its surface. That story passed me by completely in 2015.

Now it's going to pass by an object in the Kuiper belt - 2014 MU69, to be precise - and allow researchers to answer such questions as: “How was it was constructed? Does it have an atmosphere? Does it have rings? Who knows what we might find.”

No object in the Kuiper Belt has yet been investigated in such detail before, so this is genuinely ground-breaking research. The images are due to arrive on January 1st. I really hope some of them make the cut for the front pages that day - they might make a nice contrast with the very pretty, but pretty cliched, photos of New Year's eve fireworks that will no doubt feature heavily.

Such stories so often pass me by. And I'm sure I'm not alone in that. But thankfully, somebody is keeping track of it all. Kudos here lies with the excellent Guardian science pages: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2018/dec/15/new-horizons-probe-edge-of-solar-system-ultima-thule-kuiper-belt


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